Sunday song of the day: Today’s song didn’t sell well under its original title, but a retitled cover version was a big hit.
The songwriting team of Thom Bell and Linda Creed, who were instrumental in establishing “The Philadelphia Sound” in soul music, wrote a song called Keep Growing Strong in 1970. It was then recorded by actress and singer Connie Stevens and released as a single in October 1970. This version failed to make an impact and did not chart at all.
The next year, Bell was producing the debut album for a group called The Stylistics, and they recorded Keep Growing Strong, but used a different title, based on another line repeated in the song: Betcha By Golly, Wow. The album, titled simply The Stylistics, was released in November 1971. Three songs included on the album were singles that preceded the album, with You’re a Big Girl Now, Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart), and You Are Everything placing at #73, #39, and #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 respectively. Thus, it was as established hitmakers that they released their first single from The Stylistics that had been recorded specifically for the album. That was Betcha By Golly, Wow.
It proved to be their biggest hit so far, topping out at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The Stylistics continued producing hits for the next several years, but eclipsed Betcha By Golly, Wow only once, with 1974’s You Make Me Feel Brand New, which placed at #2 on the Hot 100.
Since its first release the song has been covered over fifty times by various artists. Only the Connie Francis original used the Keep Growing Strong title. All the others used Betcha By Golly, Wow, with the exception of one version titled only Betcha By Golly, and one that added an exclamation point after the title. The version called Betcha By Golly, Wow! was released by Prince on his 1996 album Emancipation.
Monday song of the day: The first line of today’s song was suggested by the songwriter’s father.
Wayne Carson constructed the song The Letter based on the line “Give me a ticket for an aeroplane” suggested by his father. From that line, he built a song on the premise that the singer wants to quickly fly back to see a former love, who had sent him a letter saying that she wanted him back. Carson recorded a demo tape of that and other songs, which he gave to studio owner Chips Moman. Moman liked The Letter and suggested it for a group called The DeVilles, who had a new lead singer, sixteen-year-old Alex Chilton.
The record’s producer, Dan Penn, suggested to Chilton that he exaggerate the pronunciation of aeroplane and that he sing with a fairly gruff voice. He later said that Chilton “picked it up exactly as I had in mind, maybe even better. I hadn’t even paid any attention to how good he sang because I was busy trying to put the band together.” It all seemed to work well.
Before the record was released in August 1967, the band’s name was changed from The DeVilles to The Box Tops. The Letter was a hit, and rose to the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for four weeks. The single sold over four million copies and ended up as the number 2 song for the entire year.